Wed Jan 18 8:43am ET
By JEFF PAUR
Sr Fantasy Writer
Kelce should get plenty of targets
And then there were eight. Yes, eight teams left for a right to go to the Super Bowl. It should be a great weekend of action. I think all the games should be very competitive and could go either way. I really mean that. The Giants are big underdogs but just keep getting better each week. And Daniel Jones is playing some great football. So needless to say, I’m really looking forward to the action this week. It should be great!
Now for my random thoughts for the week. . . . .
If I’m an NFL team, I’m not sure I pursue Tom Brady. I just don’t know how much he has left in the tank. The only scenario that makes sense to be is if I draft a quarterback I don’t trust as a rookie. You hate to count him out, but I’m just not sure he is going to be a difference maker at this stage of his career. He just misses on some throws he normally makes and will be another year older next season.
I can’t see how the Chargers bring back Brandon Staley as head coach. That teams has too much talent to disappoint like they have this year. That offense needs a big-time spark, wasting some elite talent on that side of the ball. And Staley playing his starters in a meaningless game at the end of the year made no sense. It cost him with Mike Williams getting hurt. And then he blows a game in the playoffs he was up by 27 points. It sounds like the Chargers will bring him back, though, which is not good news for that team in my view.
You have to wonder what the Cowboys are going to do at kicker after Brett Maher missed four extra points last week. That has to be a huge concern for them. Every point matters so much in the playoffs. A missed extra point could be the difference between moving on or going home. I can’t see the team having much faith in him after that display last week. It is tough to make a change at this point, though, especially with Maher kicking so well during the regular season.
So the big question this offseason is where does Lamar Jackson land. He is not coming back to the Ravens. That much I do know. I like the Jets as a fit. A young, up and coming team that sorely needs a franchise quarterback. He would have a lot of talent to work with offensively and could be a good fit there. I actually like the Falcons too as a landing spot. They have a strong running game and solid offensive line. Plus, it would be great seeing Jackson throw passes to Kyle Pitts. It should be an interesting offseason regarding Jackson. The good news is you can expect him to get moved before the draft, so we should know sooner than later.
That was quite the performance from Trevor Lawrence last week. He showed me a lot, coming back from his four interceptions. He could have folded and quit after the start to his game. That didn’t happen. He kept plugging along and adjusted to his first-half mistakes. Lawrence just keeps impressing me on a weekly basis. He is going to be a good one for years to come.
I’m anxious to see how Brock Purdy responds when he is called on in a close game. The stage hasn’t been too big for him to start his career, but it is going to just keep getting bigger for him as his team advances in the playoffs. He has answered every question to date, which has been impressive. How will he do if asked to complete a game-winning drive at the end of a game? It will be fun to watch.
News and Notes: The Titans hired 49ers director of pro personnel Ran Carthon as their new general manager. Carthon comes from a great organization and could be a great get for the Titans organization. . . . .Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson has informed interested teams that he's staying in Detroit in 2023. This is great news for the Lions offense, keeping Johnson in the fold for next season.
Christian Kirk, WR, Jaguars. Kirk had a great showing in the Jaguars playoff opener, scoring 21.8 fantasy points. He has 21-plus points two straight games. He has been great as the top target in the Jaguars passing game. Expect more of the same this week against Kansas City. Kirk had nine receptions for 105 yards and two touchdowns against the Chiefs in Week 10. The Chiefs allow the eighth most fantasy points to receivers.
Travis Kelce, TE, Chiefs. Kelce is a must start every week, but look for the Chiefs to lean on him even more in the playoffs. Kelce has not scored touchdown since Week 12, but has four games with double-digit fantasy points during the stretch. He gets his weekly chances. Kelce had six catches for 81 yards and a touchdown against this same Jaguars team earlier this season. The Jaguars also have struggled to stop the tight end this year, allowing the seventh most fantasy points to tight ends.
Miles Sanders, RB, Eagles. Sanders had his best season to date this year. He topped 1,200-rushing yards and scored 11 touchdowns in the Eagles explosive offense. He has enjoyed some huge games, including one against the Giants in Week 14. He ran 17 times for a season-high 144 yards and two scores in that game. He could get a big workload again this week against a Giants team that ranks 27th overall against the run.
Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Cowboys. Elliott is becoming a touchdown dependent fantasy play. He just isn’t doing much outside of finding the end zone. He has fewer than 40-rushing yards his last three games. He has run 21 times for just 37 yards his last two. We just aren’t sure he is worth the risk right now for fantasy teams. The 49ers also have been great against the run this year, ranking first overall in fewest fantasy points allowed to running backs. The 49ers are second overall against the run, allowing 77.7-rushing yards per game.
Isaiah Hodgins, WR, Giants. Hodgins had his best game of the season last week, catching eight passes for 105 yards and a touchdown on nine targets. He has been a big surprise down the stretch for the Giants, emerging as a top threat in the passing game opposite Richie Jams. But even with that said, he has just two games all season with more than 50 yards. He has been mediocre more than outstanding. And a matchup against a great Eagles secondary is not a good one for him. Philadelphia is first overall against the pass, allowing just 179.8-passing yards per game.
Gabriel Davis, WR, Bills. Davis has been up and down all season, frustrating fantasy owners. He was up last week, catching six passes for 113 yards and a touchdown on nine targets. It was a great showing for Davis. You just never know what you are going to get with him, though. He has a really tough matchup against a rapidly improving Bengals defense, a secondary that allows the sixth fewest fantasy points to receivers. It might be a down game for Davis this week.
Hayden Hurst, TE, Bengals. Hurst hasn’t been off the charts this year, but pretty consistent for the Bengals. He has at least four receptions nine times. And he has been pretty involved in the offense since coming back from injury two weeks back. He has 11 targets his last two games and caught four passes each of those games. The Bills might focus on shutting down the high-powered receivers in the Bengals offense, giving Hurst a few more favorable looks. He might be a sneaky play for fantasy teams in this one.
Elijah Mitchell, RB, 49ers. Mitchell returned to action late in the year and has found the end zone each of the last two games he has played. He had just 27 total yards last week but had 11 touches in the game. The 49ers are getting him the ball, so expect more of the same for a team that likes to get multiple backs involved offensively. Plus, he gets a Cowboys team this week that has allowed some big rushing games this season. Dallas has allowed 150-plus rushing yards six times, including 200-plus yards twice. Mitchell could really do some damage with double-digit touches this week.
Cole Beasley, WR, Bills. Beasley had a season-high five targets last week for the Bills. He had two catches for 35 yards and his first touchdown of the season. He has a familiarity with Josh Allen and this offense, so he is worth a dart throw for fantasy teams in what could be a high-scoring game. It would not surprise to see Beasley find the end zone once again.
High/Low Scoring Games
Each week we will take a look at some of the high and low scoring games for the coming week. In high scoring affairs, get your marginal players on those teams in your lineup to take advantage of the possible points barrage. And in the low scoring games, keep those marginal players on the bench and make sure to have your defenses involved in those contests.
High Scoring Games: Jaguars/Chiefs, Bengals/Bills, Giants/Eagles.
Low Scoring Games: None.
Jeff Paur is a two-time finalist for FSWA Fantasy Football Writer of the Year and won the FSWA award for Best Fantasy Football Article on the Web in 2011. He also was the most accurate expert in 2012, winning the FSTA Fantasy Football Accuracy Award. If you have any questions for Jeff, email him at email@example.com. Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeffpaur.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Chris Godwin is reportedly feeling his explosiveness coming back. The speedy wideout tore his ACL in 2021, but still ended up playing in 14 games last season. Godwin mentioned that he feels completely different during his second offseason post-surgery. Fantasy managers still received 104 receptions, 1,023 yards, and three touchdowns from Godwin last season. He looked the same on the field, but his 9.8 yards per reception was the worst of his career. Also, the three touchdowns were his lowest since his rookie campaign. The Bucs are hopeful to see more from Godwin next season, but that also depends on the reliability of the quarterback under center.
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Michael Gallup is reportedly feeling good again at recently team workouts. The 27-year-old is now 18 months removed from a torn ACL that he suffered in the later part of the 2021 season. Gallup was healthy for a majority of last season, but didn't contribute as much as many thought he would. He finished with 39 receptions, 424 yards, and three touchdowns in 14 games. It sounds like Gallup is feeling better now and could be in for a bounce back campaign. However, he'll have to compete with Brandin Cooks and CeeDee Lamb for targets in Dallas. The expectation is that Gallup will be the starting slot receiver to begin the season. He could have some late-round value, assuming he's truly back to full health.
Detroit Lions safety Tracy Walker (Achilles) is expected to return in full for training camp. The 28-year-old tore his Achilles in Week 3 and missed the rest of the season because of it. He has been able to participate on a limited basis during recent OTAs. It sounds like the team is going to ease Walker back into things coming off a serious injury. His return to the field would be a huge boost to the Lions defense. Walker is a former third round pick who has two 100-tackle seasons under his belt. The Lions could have a scary secondary with C.J. Gardner-Johnson and Walker back there.
Jacksonville Jaguars running back Travis Etienne Jr. took 74 percent of the snaps in the backfield last season. It sounds like the Jaguars would like to reduce that amount next season, according to ESPN's Michael DiRocco. Recently, head coach Doug Pederson praised the depth this team has at running back. They've added D'Ernest Johnson and Tank Bigsby to their backfield to play alongside Etienne. The expectation is that both of those players are going to have a role as the backups to Etienne. It remains to be seen how the Jaguars decide to split up the snaps. The organization believes that having a committee at running back will help keep everyone fresh and healthy. Fantasy managers don't need to panic, but Ethienne's value could be taking a hit, assuming the Jaguars do go with a three-back committee next season.
According to Brian Costello and Ryan Dunleavy of the New York Post, there's "still confidence" the Jets and defensive lineman Quinnen Williams will get a deal done, possibly by "mid-June." The 25-year-old is coming off a fantastic season, totaling 55 tackles and two forced fumbles. He also had a career-high 12 sacks and made the Pro Bowl. Williams is expected to command well over $20 million per season in a new contract. But with the Jets looking to make a deep postseason run, keeping him happy may be in the team's best interest.
According to Mike Florio of Pro Football Focus, Jimmy Garoppolo's (foot) contract with the Raiders contains an injury clause, permitting the franchise to void the deal he signed in March if he can't pass a physical heading into the 2023-24 campaign. The veteran signal-caller suffered a left foot injury in December while still a member of the 49ers. Since then, there have been conflicting reports surrounding the nature of the ailment. Although the 49ers' medical staff felt Garoppolo didn't need surgery, he eventually went under the knife and has been working his way back, recently missing OTAs as a result. Nonetheless, there will be plenty of eyes on this situation in the coming months, especially if Jimmy G can't get healthy enough to suit up for the Raiders. If that's the case, Vegas has Brian Hoyer, Chase Garbers, and fourth-round pick Aidan O'Connell on the roster. However, the club would surely look to add another option.
According to Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated, only the Bills and Cardinals had "substantive" talks with the Cardinals about trading for DeAndre Hopkins. Of course, nobody made a move, and Arizona released him on Friday. Since the multi-time Pro Bowler became a free agent, several teams have emerged as potential suitors. However, other clubs like the Browns appear uninterested, meaning a reunion between Hopkins and Deshaun Watson probably won't happen. The Chiefs have since expressed their faith in Kadarius Toney to become the top wideout on the depth chart, while the Bills may not have the cash to make a move, considering Hopkins could command more than the $15 million Odell Beckham Jr. received from Baltimore. Nonetheless, there will be plenty of updates and speculation moving forward. But it will be hard to tell how Hopkins will look from a fantasy standpoint until he officially inks a new deal
Jacksonville Jaguars running back Travis Etienne Jr. entered training camp last offseason working his way back from a foot injury that cost him his rookie year. However, the 24-year-old is healthy this offseason, so he's focused on "fine-tuning" his skills. "Last year was more about getting healthy and getting back," said Etienne during OTAs. "This year, I didn't have to worry about my foot. It's great. So I'm able to work on football, all football." Although Etienne got off to a slow start in 2022-23, he still finished with 1,125 yards and five rushing touchdowns off 220 carries. He also caught 35 passes for 316 yards. Nonetheless, the former Clemson Tiger is the top option on the depth chart, so he may easily surpass his ADP projections this season.
During an interview with Cameron Cox of 12News, Arizona Cardinals safety Budda Baker stated he would attend training camp. "Oh yeah, of course, I'll be there when it's time to be there," said Baker. "I'll be there smiling and (be) the same regular guy that I am." The All-Pro finished last season with 111 total tackles (75 solo), seven passes defensed, and two sacks. However, he requested a trade in April after failing to secure a new deal. Nonetheless, with Arizona in rebuilding mode, it will be interesting to see the outcome of this situation.
2023 is the last year that the Cincinnati Bengals will have quarterback Joe Burrow on the cheap via his rookie deal. While it does seem inevitable a deal will get done between the two sides, how big will it be? Per Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, Burrow should agree to a percentage of the salary each year to compensate for it going up. Nonetheless, the contract extension talks shouldn't impact Burrow's fantasy outlook for 2023. Even without a ton of rushing upside, Burrow should still be viewed as a Top 5-7 quarterback for fantasy in 2023. The Bengals ran 11 personnel at an 82% rate in 2022, good for the second-highest in the NFL. With Joe Mixon, Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and some improvements on the offensive line, it's hard not to see the Bengals' offense as a potent foe for 2023. In the two seasons combined Burrow has averaged 4500+ passing yards and 34+ TD passes per year.
The New York Jets signed undrafted rookie wide receiver Jerome Kapp to an undisclosed deal this week and placed defensive lineman Bradlee Anae (undisclosed) on the Injured Reserve in a corresponding move. Kapp took part in the team's rookie minicamp earlier this month. In his final collegiate season at Kutztown, he produced 47 catches for 916 yards and nine touchdowns. In three total seasons at Kutztown, Kapp caught 122 passes for 2,190 yards and 22 touchdowns over 36 games. He'll be a long shot to make the team's active roster out of training camp this summer, but he could stick on the team's practice squad.
Tennessee Titans wide receiver Chris Moore, who is coming off the best season of his NFL career, will look to be versatile in order to help his new team in 2023. "I can do whatever they need me to do," Moore said. "First, I am a football player, and then I'm a receiver. Whatever they want me to do, I'm going to do it." The former fourth-rounder of the Ravens in 2016, Moore spent the last two years with the Texans and caught 48 passes for 548 yards and two TDs in 16 games (seven starts) in 2022. In his six NFL seasons, he's caught 116 passes for 1,286 yards and eight scores, and he also has experience as a kick returner. The 29-year-old will likely be behind Treylon Burks, Kyle Phillips and Nick Westbrook-Ikhine in the receiving pecking order, though, so he'll be off the fantasy radar to begin the year.
San Francisco 49ers linebacker Dre Greenlaw (thumb) had a minor procedure after last year to fix an injured thumb, and he's still working his way back, which is why he wasn't taking part in organized team activities this week. Once he's back to full health, Greenlaw expects to absorb everything new defensive coordinator Steve Wilks has to offer him. The former fifth-rounder in 2019 only has two career sacks to his name, but he's hoping to be used more as a blitzer in the new defensive scheme in 2023. In his four seasons in the Bay Area, the 26-year-old has recorded 326 tackles (217 solo), 13 tackles for loss, five QB hits, three interceptions (one returned for a touchdown), 10 passes defensed, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries (one for a TD) in 47 games (39 starts).
New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley is the team's unquestioned workhorse back. He played 80 percent of the offensive snaps last year. Matt Breida was a speedy complement to Barkley who also worked well in tandem with the star runner in multi-back packages. He's the favorite to be the backup again. Gary Brightwell had a team-high 4.5 yards per carry on 31 carries in 2022, but he's expected to be challenged for the No. 3 role by rookie Eric Gray, who brings a reputation as a "balanced, agile runner with darting quickness and steady pass-catching skills." If Gray impresses during training camp this summer, the 24-year-old Brightwell could find himself No. 4 on the team's RB depth chart to open the year.
With the release of wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins on Friday, Arizona Cardinals wideout Marquise Brown now becomes the team's clear No. 1 pass-catcher. Rondale Moore will be looking to overcome his injury issues but will have a big opportunity to make noise if he can stay healthy. Greg Dortch should also see plenty of chances as well. Veteran Zach Pascal and third-round rookie Michael Wilson bring nice size to the group. Hollywood Brown began 2022 as the top wideout with Hopkins suspended, but the 25-year-old former first-rounder missed time with injuries and played in only 12 games (10 starts) in his first year in the desert. He finished with 67 catches for 709 yards and three TDs. Brown has plenty of upside in fantasy, but he also might not have quarterback Kyler Murray (knee) until halfway through the season.
Dallas Cowboys offensive tackle Terence Steele (knee), who tore his ACL and MCL in his left knee in Week 14 of last season against the Houston Texans, was limited during organized team activities this week. The fourth-year offensive lineman has started 40 games in the last three seasons and is a valuable member of the team's O-line when he's healthy. "Terence isn't quite ready for some of that," head coach Mike McCarthy said. "We'll try to interject these guys the best we can." As long as the 25-year-old doesn't suffer any setbacks once training camp begins later this summer, he will open the 2023 regular season as Dallas' starting right tackle.
Dynasty | Josh Downs is dealing with a minor knee injury Dynasty Analysis: It probably isn't even newsworthy but Downs is a rookie and needs to develop chemistry with rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson while also working on needed NFL-level conditioning requirements. Mandatory OTAs kick-off next month so the team will be cautious with the projected starter in the slot to ensure he's back and fully healthy when they begin. Downs is found as DLF's rookie WR5 and our WR59 overall.
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Elijah Moore and quarterback Deshaun Watson are already building important chemistry early this offseason when Watson brought a few of the team's veterans to Puerto Rico last week. But Moore has continued to build chemistry with Watson in the first few days of organized team activities this week. He was a constant target for Watson in 7-on-7 work on Wednesday. "Different quarterback, different arm, seeing what he sees and just the communication around the team," Moore said. "Everyone communicates differently, but I feel like it's going to go well, so I can't complain." The 23-year-old former second-rounder appears headed for a nice bounce-back season as Cleveland's starting slot receiver in 2023.
Cleveland Browns tight end Jordan Akins chose to sign with Cleveland this offseason mainly because it would give him another chance to work with a quarterback he already knew in Deshaun Watson. Akins played his first three NFL seasons with Watson in Houston and enjoyed catching passes from him. The 6-foot-4, 245-pounder will give Watson another big tight end who can be a weapon in the red zone, and Akins is coming off his best season with five touchdowns for the Texans. While working with Watson in Houston, Akins caught 90 passes for 1,046 yards and three TDs in three years. The 31-year-old's familiarity with Watson is a plus, but unless David Njoku misses time with an injury in 2023, Akins won't have a ton of fantasy appeal.
Dynasty | The Bills possess the best odds (+300) to sign DeAndre Hopkins according to DraftKings Dynasty Analysis: The next teams are the Chiefs (+400), Ravens (+650), and Jets (+750). Absent from the top four are the Patriots who were said to be in the mix when it became apparent the Cardinals were wanting to move on. The release of Hopkins clearly pegs the Cardinals as a team tanking for Caleb as they are absorbing the full cap hit ($22M) rather than waiting until after June 1 and halving the charge. Be the best or be the worst, don't be mediocre. The Cardinals are clearly choosing to clear the slate, removing those impact players that could potentially win games in hopes of securing a better draft position in 2024. As for Hopkins, look for the aging star to sign with a top contender, either Buffalo or Kansas City, neither of which are swimming in available cap room. Soon to be 31, Hopkins' decision could drag out as teams wrestle with contract terms and player restructuring to free cap room. He's found as DLF's WR41 and could have upside in 2023.